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Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter's Eye

June 28 – October 4, 2015
West Building, Main Floor, Northeast Galleries

Gustave Caillebotte, Paris Street, Rainy Day (detail), 1877, oil on canvas, The Art Institute of Chicago, Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Collection. Photography © The Art Institute of Chicago

This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.

Overview: In 1875 Gustave Caillebotte (1848 – 1894) submitted a painting of floor scrapers to the jury of the Salon, the official exhibition of the Academy of Fine Arts in Paris. The work was rejected, but Edgar Degas and Auguste Renoir admired it and encouraged him to exhibit with the impressionists. Caillebotte’s canvas, depicting shirtless laborers finishing a wood floor, became one of the sensations of the second impressionist show in 1876. Describing the picture in terms of its realism and modernity, admirers praised its “truth” and “frank intimacy,” while critics deemed it “crude” and “anti-artistic.”

Caillebotte was thrilled by the impressionists’ fresh, radical vision. Over the next six years he participated regularly in their exhibitions, submitting paintings of the people and places he encountered in and around Paris. Featuring skewed perspectives and modern subjects, the canvases reflect the visual drama of the capital — then undergoing radical transformation into a modern metropolis. Caillebotte established himself as an artistic force in the group, as well as a vital organizer who helped curate and finance their exhibitions. During his brief career he also became a significant patron, amassing a collection of more than seventy works, including masterpieces by Degas and Renoir as well as Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Camille Pissarro, and Alfred Sisley.

Despite these accomplishments, Caillebotte remains perhaps the least known of the French impressionists. Because of his secure finances — derived from his father’s successful textile business — he had no need to earn an income from his art. He therefore did not sell his pictures, and few entered public collections. After he bequeathed his collection to the state, it became the cornerstone of impressionist art in French national museums. But the impressive bequest, which included only two of his own works, overshadowed his artistic achievements and further contributed to his obscurity.

More than a half century after his death at age forty-five, interest in Caillebotte’s art began to reemerge. Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter’s Eye continues this rediscovery, gathering his best work for a fresh look. Although all periods of his career are represented, attention focuses on the years 1875 to 1882 when he was most closely allied with the impressionists. The exhibition not only includes his most famous cityscapes and interiors, but also shows his artistic range with a selection of portraits, nudes, river scenes, still lifes, and landscapes. Together they portray an artist deeply interested in his surroundings, preoccupied with the ways art can connect us to our environment: “I imagine,” wrote Caillebotte to Monet, “that the very great artists attach you even more to life.”

Organization: Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth

Sponsors: The exhibition is made possible through the leadership support of the Leonard and Elaine Silverstein Family Foundation.

The Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation also provided generous support.

Additional funding is kindly given by Count and Countess de La Haye St. Hilaire.

The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Attendance: 250,129

Catalog: Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter's Eye. By Mary Morton and George Shackelford. Washington, D.C. : National Gallery of Art, 2015.

Brochure: Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter’s Eye by Lynn Kellmanson Matheny. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 2015. 

Other Venues: Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, November 8, 2015–February 14, 2016

Caillebotte, Gustave
French, 1848 - 1894
Cézanne, Paul
French, 1839 - 1906
Degas, Edgar
French, 1834 - 1917
Monet, Claude
French, 1840 - 1926
Morisot, Berthe
French, 1841 - 1895
Pissarro, Camille
French, 1830 - 1903
Renoir, Auguste
French, 1841 - 1919
Sisley, Alfred
French, 1839 - 1899
Gustave Caillebotte
Caillebotte/Durand-Ruel: Making Impressionism
Audio, Released: September 29, 2015, (66:56 minutes)
Introduction to the Exhibition—Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter’s Eye
Audio, Released: July 7, 2015, (53:56 minutes)
"Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter’s Eye," Now on View!
Video, Released: June 30, 2015, (00:24 minutes)
Press Event: Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter's Eye and Pleasure and Piety: The Art of Joachim Wtewael (1566–1638)
Audio, Released: June 23, 2015, (32:13 minutes)